“If the quality of school and pedagogy is defined by NAPLAN centric measurement and growth and with principals tenured … based on NAPLAN growth, I would say that is a far cry from the kinds of innovation that we need as we are entering the fourth industrial revolution, the digital age, new technologies and growth and the kinds of skills and capabilities that young people are needing,” Dr Bills says.
Prof Martin Westwell, former Chief Executive of the SACE Board, was appointed to the role at the Department of Education in April 2022 and says the education system is complex and needs to be both “tight and flexible”.
“To have that balance between the two and knowing where the boundaries are, can be quite tricky,” he says.
“What's our narrative right now, where are we, where do we want to be and what's our best chance of getting there as a system?
"Some things are non-negotiables for us; we want our students to have their learning entitlement, the things that you really can't leave school without developing.
“But then there's some flexibility on how that's enacted. So we want fidelity to the principles but the way in which those principles are enacted might be different … because our schools are in an enormous range of context with a range of students.”
Prof Westwell says educators should not be measuring student success by asking how well they are doing but instead “how the student is doing well”.
"We are not backing off the expectation of our students to be literate and numerate, to have social skills, interpersonal skills and ethical understanding," he says.
“There are other ways of being successful and we know that our students who go on to do vocational education are incredibly successful in that pathway in the same way that students who go on and do an academic pathway can be incredibly successful."
Dr Bills welcomes this "new narrative" and says the equity and excellence agenda presents new frontiers for Flinders research with the Department into school redesign and pedagogical innovation to uplift public education.